PHOENIX (December 9, 2022)— According to Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH), cases of COVID-19, influenza (flu), and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are all higher than usual for this time of year, and COVID-19 and flu cases are still increasing. MCDPH is encouraging everyone ages six months and older to get vaccinated against COVID and flu to prevent additional cases as people gather this holiday season.
“Respiratory viruses can cause severe disease, especially in infants, young children, and older adults,” said Dr. Nick Staab, medical epidemiologist at MCDPH. “It is concerning to see so many cases before many holiday gatherings and travel have even happened. We are already seeing a strain on our healthcare systems.”
Influenza cases are now “widespread” in Maricopa County, which is the highest category of flu spread. The CDC says that Maricopa County is in the high category for COVID transmission. At this level of transmission, the CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors in public, which includes during travel and in other public settings. RSV cases are more than two times higher than during the average peak.
Residents are encouraged to get vaccinated and to recognize the signs of respiratory illnesses. There is no vaccine for RSV, but flu and COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing many infections and reducing the severity of breakthrough infections. People with symptoms should stay home and away from others unless they’re seeking healthcare. If going out is necessary, they should wear a mask around others. Getting tested by a medical provider can confirm which virus a person has and determine treatment options.
Symptoms of COVID-19, flu, and RSV can include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Coughing/sore throat
- Muscle or body aches
In children under age one, symptoms of RSV can also include irritability, decreased appetite, decreased activity, and pauses while breathing (apnea).
“Staying up-to-date on flu and COVID-19 vaccines is a simple way to prevent infections, reduce the spread of respiratory illness and prevent severe disease,” said Dr. Staab. “You can get them on the same day at many places, and there’s still time to get vaccinated before the holidays.” It’s best to get vaccinated at least two weeks ahead of gatherings or travel so the body has time to build up protection.
Protection from vaccines is enhanced by also using other prevention tactics. These include proper and frequent hand-washing; wearing a mask in crowded indoor areas; and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. If you are sick with a respiratory illness, stay home and away from others, especially if you cannot wear a mask around others to decrease the spread of illness.
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